What to wear when galavanting through Congo.

Christmas time for South Africans especially those abroad is one of those rare occasions where nothing and no one will get in the way of the Great Trek down south to the motherland. Once a year south african moms and dads with kids, nephews, parents and siblings dotted all around the world congregate for the sun, sea and scoff fest that is December. Our favourite beach paradise of choice is Plettenberg Bay, a small town located on the Garden Route between Storms River and Knysna which in contrast to its size and homey ambience boasts some of the countries most elaborate and exorbitantly luxurious estates. Our little beach house is not of this demeanor. The Nupen Casa found at the end of a narrow winding road in the old part of Plett, opposite the stone church has arguably the most exquisite view in the whole town. This little hideout on  the edge of the african continent is an exciting place to cook, experiment and attain some of the freshest ingredients around to roast and braai and boil into summer bouillon, boeries and brews.

When we’re not on our daily walk along the Robberg Beach or soaking in the sun on our verandah (spotting dolphins), we’re in the kitchen. Cameron, my new brother (Lil’s hubby) and my dad have perfected the braaid boerie and steak on the braai, whereas Lil makes the best fresh tuna-salad-filled ciabattas. Jamie, my younger bro has been known to produce a 12 egg omelette depending on whether he emerges before 2pm, and my mom and I tackle the slightly more vivacious mostly fish dishes. Christmas eve is our biggest food challenge of the year and the determination to impress, excite and overwhelm our guests with new tastes and interesting recipes is the name of the day. This year after the memories of the scrumptious turkish themed meal of Xmas 2010, we decided to go for a change and do african traditional.

So, what the hell is african traditional? Well according to my dictionary; a roast orange and honey-glazed turkey with peach and cashew nut stuffing, asparagus risotto, grilled zucchini slap chips, a blue cheese and baby tomato summer salad and my  mom’s Mali baked fish dish. No pork this year as it turned out our guests amounted to Plett’s Jewish elite, but I did make sure our Afrikaans vetkoek was on the menu. Translated directly as ‘fat cake’ but is actually fried bread and is delicious. For dessert I threw together some mint ice-cream and we made our very simple yet sublime mango pudding which is layers of sun-riped mango, blanketed with a mixture of thick greek yoghurt and creamy mascarpone and finally dusted with brown sugar-to set in the fridge for 3hrs. I’ll put all the recipes up on the site for you to try. Oh and we finished off with coffee and homemade biscotti, the easiest things to bake.

It was simple, nothing too extravagant, but the guests tucked in and washed back their chow with bottles and bottles of Deutz;  fresh, elegant and aromatic French champagne. The champagne was so good in fact that there is little record of the evening…lots of the preparation but not many pics of the fruition of our efforts. Damn! Christmas eve was however peanuts in comparison to the events of our annual boat trip down the Keurboom’s River on Christmas Day…

Hanging like dogs and stuffed to perfection we awoke Sunday morning to another day of blue skies, 30 degrees and the notion of our upcoming river adventure. Every year we as a family hire a boat and set off down the Keurboom’s River for a picnic. This year as we now have a new addition to the family and because Jamie brought his girlfriend Christina AND because there is always more food than there are people, we hired two boats. Now when I say boat, I mean ‘chug-chug’. The man who runs the angling club in Plett looks 85 but is actually probably only 50 due to the effects of harsh african sun  but also due most likely to the fact that he is such a schnupp and rips his loyal customers off every year by charging R600 for a family of max 6 with a load of food and cooler box of drinks for a boat with horsepower 5. Do you know how slow these things are? Now south african men are not exactly small and slender and after a night of over enthusiastic feeding not to mention the extra weight of Cameron’s fishing rod we could have swum faster. I could have pulled this excuse for a boat faster. And so we made our way  down the river to our little private beach. Needless to say it took us about half a day to travel 1.2km not made easier by the tsunami wakes created by the over zealous speedboat owners who tear up and down the river as if it were a formula 1 track.

If there were one thing that no matter how stuffed and choked up with christmas dinner you were, you would eat, then what would it be? For us it’s crayfish. Crayfish the size of giant lobsters which my mom sources from a mystery contact that none of us know about, quite suspicious. She presents me each Xmas morning with a box full of live crustaceans (frischer gehts nicht) while my dad packs the cooler box with castle and Deutz. 7 mins in a pot of boiling water with a pinch of salt and Voila: crayfish a la Jessique. To be consumed hot or cold, with or without garlic mayonnaise and with bare hands.

Filled to the human brim, Jamie hits the water with Cam’s fishing rod and manages hook the indigenous tree behind us while Christina pumps for sand prawns. Cam cracks open another beer, dad and I hit the river for a swim and mom and Lil snooze on the beach until it is time to head back to Plett. Through the monster wakes at 1.23 km/hr and belching over the side of the boat we bring Christmas 2011 to a close.


15 Responses to “What to wear when galavanting through Congo.”
  1. Lili Nupen says:

    you couldnt have put it better, Jess!!! there is nothing like Nupen xmas in Plett!! Please post the recipes…those biscoti were incredible… melt in your mouth delights xxx

  2. gordon9972 says:

    Hey, sounds like a wonderful xmas holiday. It s great to have traditions ! love it !
    Do you mind to bring some of the sun back to Hamburg, maybe we swap some rain !
    Cheers Gordo

  3. Sanjeeta kk says:

    Fun holiday..glad you had nice time, Jess! Happy 2012 to you and yours.

  4. Henriette says:

    Hi Jess, I stumbled across your blog, and I love it! I’ve been looking for something like this!! Your entries about South Africa remind me very much of Australia (where I used to live for a few years), all the outdoors, eating lots of fresh seafood and enjoying the sunshine… Keep it up, I’d love to hear more about great places to eat and drink in Hamburg! Hennie

    • Jessica Nupen says:

      Hi Hennie,

      Thanks for your comment. Its always great to hear that someone out there’s reading! Just about to post a new one so stay posted and happy exploring!

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